Apply for the Elevate accelerator

Key dates

Tuesday 12th January 2021 – Applications open

Friday 12th February at 11:59pm – Applications close

w/c 8th March – 1st stage interviews

w/c 22nd March – 2nd stage interviews

Wednesday 31st March – Final ventures selected

Wednesday 14th April 2021 – Elevate cohort 4 starts

October 2021 – Elevate demo day & end of programme

1. What does OXFO Elevate offer to venture teams?

Ventures accepted onto the OXFO Elevate accelerator will receive an intensive 6-month programme of bespoke support focusing on the unique needs and challenges of your business depending on its stage and sector of operation. We focus on developing CEOs, teams, products and models, whilst also facilitating access to investment, talent, networks and unparalleled opportunities.

Our ventures scale fast, raise significant investment, create jobs, and lead on innovation for our society and economy.​ The support offerings will vary and be adjusted to help meet the goals set by ventures with support from the OXFO team and mentors. This includes:

  • Venture building curriculum – We provide 6-months of venture building education from some of the world’s leading experts including ex-entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, thought leaders and academics.
  • Bespoke support – In addition to providing you access to workshops and education around building and scaling your company, we provide you with a bespoke programme focused on your problems and needs as a start-up. Every start-up has different needs and problems based on their sector and stage. We want to make sure we do everything we can to support you from day one.
  • Leadership training (personal development & mental health) – We provide 6-months of leadership training to prepare our founders to develop as exceptional leaders who are equipped to successfully build high-growth sustainable businesses, long term. This includes giving you access to specialist founder coaches around performance.
  • Global network of mentors - We give you access to a team of 3-4 mentors at the mid-way point of the accelerator to give you the best chance of success towards the end of the programme.
  • Unrivalled network of resident experts- We give you access to an unrivalled network of resident expert, generalists and specialists, to support you from day one of the programme.
  • Access to prospective clients & partners – We support you in acquiring users or clients by making key introductions or opportunities to pitch in front of them. This takes place towards the end of the programme.
  • Access to University of Oxford talent - We give you access to the incredible University of Oxford pool of talent, providing you the opportunity to acquire paid for internships to support you and your team in the programme.
  • Access to Investors - We provide direct introductions to angel investors and funds when you need it.
  • Access to the OXFO Elevate founder community – Our community of successful and hardworking founders is growing. If ever you have a problem that you’re facing, you’re not alone and they’re here to help you.
  • £150k worth of partnerships - We give you access to over £150k of partnership benefits from Google, AWS, Hubspot, Twilio and more. We also give you access to free legal support and advice from key legal partners.
  • Bespoke Leadership Training (founders from underrepresented backgrounds)* – A tailored programme of leadership training, delivered by facilitators from underrepresented groups, connections to mentors from diverse backgrounds, and regular networking breakfasts. We are embedding specific networks of support for underrepresented founders within the cohort to help founders address the unique challenges they face. To level the playing field for all entrepreneurs – particularly women and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic founders*  – in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap, scale creative solutions to persistent problems, and build the number of diverse leaders in our global ecosystems. *Whist we have identified these two as a starting point - we will continuously reflect upon the need for additional networks to exist and ensure all underrepresented founders in the cohort are given the right support.

Mental Health support - access to confidential sessions with experts who can provide a safe space for founders to seek support. All founders will be given access to a personal development platform to set clear goals for your leadership development, complete self-assessment tests to identify areas of growth and track your progress throughout the programme.

Diversity and inclusion: Business transformation ​masterclasses (all founders) – How to embed diversity and inclusion in all aspects of your business and why a diverse business is a successful business. Examples of topics include; diversity hiring, culture, branding, and empathetic leadership​, unconscious bias, investment, support and resources.

2. Who can apply?

To be eligible for the OXFO Elevate accelerator, you or one of your cofounders must be an alumni or student of the University of Oxford. You must be a UK registered business - or have concrete plans to be - for the duration of the programme and onwards. 

We are largely focused towards accelerating ventures operating in the UK/Europe or those who are ready or aiming to operate within these markets imminently. We would advise that this is considered when deciding whether to submit an application.

We look for ventures who have the following:

  • Team, Team, Team - You have built a small, dedicated and passionate team (minimum two members) who have the skillset, experience and capabilities to execute on the business idea. For us, it’s all about the team.
  • Validated the problem - You can demonstrate key data points to validate your core assumptions/hypotheses around the problem you’re solving.
  • MVP - You have developed and begun testing your minimum viable product (MVP) with users/clients. This will be in the form of either non-paid/paid pilots or commercial contracts (B2B), or have started onboarding users, free or paying (B2C). In some cases, we will take on ventures/founders who are pre-MVP depending on where they are currently as a business, team or sector.
  • Ambitious vision - You have an ambitious product vision that aims to tackle a big problem that directly impacts one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • You know your market - You have a good understanding of your first market segment and a road map/good understanding as to how you will scale the business moving forward.
  • Diversity & inclusion - You have a commitment, as a venture, to diversity and inclusion. You recognise that successful ventures are diverse ventures and are committed to embedding diversity & inclusion in every aspect of your business, from hiring and company strategy to culture and branding.

3. If I’m not an Oxford alumnus/alumna or student member can I still apply?

If you have one or more Oxford alumni/student on your founding team, you can still apply.

4. How advanced does our start-up have to be? Can we apply if we just have an idea?

OXFO Elevate is for start-ups with a clear value proposition, who have ideally developed a minimum viable product (MVP) or who can demonstrate that they have started to solve that problem with early users/clients. If you’re at the ‘idea’ stage, then Elevate is not for you - yet!  Please consider applying for All-Innovate, Oxford's inter-college idea competition and attending our workshop series'.

5. How large can each venture team be?

Ventures can range in size of founding team/team. We expect to see a minimum team size of two.

6. What is the duration of each cohort’s time in the programme?

Cohort 4 runs from Wednesday 14th April 2021 - October 2021 – 6 months

7. What commitment does OXFO Elevate require from the teams they select?

The programme is aimed at developing pre-seed to seed stage ventures and requires the following:

  • Each venture and their founding team will commit to taking part in 1-2 days of programming per week across the 6-month programme. We expect each venture and its founders to be present and engaged over the 6-month period.
  • Each venture will be expected to provide key data on the programme, commercial progress and changes within the team.​
  • Each venture will be expected to provide data on the commercial progress of their business when completing the accelerator for up to 5-10 years. Data will be collected per quarter for the first two years, before moving to every 6-months post-two years.
  • Each venture will sign a declaration/waiver that as part of the programme they will place diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their hiring objectives and strategy. ​
  • Each entrepreneur/venture will sign a social contract at the start of the programme. They will donate a proportion of their time and networks to the OXFO community and future ventures. ​
  • Each venture must be aligned with a minimum of one SDG in order to get onto the programme. ​
  • Behaviour appropriate for the Oxford Foundry, and for a co-working or online environment.
  • A commitment to accelerate or scale your venture, with our support.

8. Does the University or OXFO make any investment in/take any equity from the ventures?

No. The Oxford Foundry does not currently invest, take any equity or claim any ownership in ideas or intellectual property (IP) created by the ventures we support. However, if non-Foundry University staff contribute to your ideas outside of the Elevate programme, or if University research is involved, there may be formal legal obligations between the University and the sponsor(s) of the research that you might not be aware. More information is available here.

9. I'm an investor / business professional / startup mentor - how can I contribute to OXFO Elevate? 

We'd love to hear from angel investors, experts and mentors  - wherever they are in the world - who are interested in contributing their time and knowledge as part of Elevate. Please email and connect with us on LinkedIn

10. Is there access to physical accelerator space

Yes, all accelerator ventures have 7-day a week access to our The Amersi Accelerator space in the Oxford Foundry, University of Oxford, 3-5 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, OX1 2EW. (*Subject to Covid-19 social distancing measures. The Oxford Foundry building is temporarily closed due to Covid-19). 


Applications for Elevate Cohort 4 are open Tuesday 12th January 2021 and close on Friday 12th February 2021 at 11:59pm. 


A copy of the application questions can be found here


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